Dry hopping experiments

Our empty polypins, looking almost as rough as we did after the party
Our empty polypins, looking almost as rough as we did after the party

We’ve been experimenting with serving our homebrew from polypins for a while now. After some initial confusion, we’ve nailed the process and can now turn out pretty convincing “cask conditioned” beer at our parties.

At this weekend’s bash, we were able to go one step further and offer two variations on the same beer — one straight, and one with extra hops in the cask.

The result was remarkable, with the beers scarcely resembling each other. It helped that we added a good few handfuls of unsubtle cascade hops, which always have a pretty intense effect on the aroma and flavour of a beer.

Do any commercial breweries flog almost the same beer under two names using a neat trick along these lines, we wonder?

Polypins are easy once you know to (a) leave them be, even when they’re swelling up in a disturbing fashion; (b) put them somewhere cold for a bit so the gas gets absorbed into the beer and (c) tilt them so you don’t have to tip them at the end to get the last of the beer out. Thanks to everyone who gave us advice on this in the past few months.

15 replies on “Dry hopping experiments”

I’m intrigued by polypin dispensing – kegs are such a hassle.

Would be great if you could provide a step by step about what to do / expect?


I don’t know about any dry hopping to produce a different product from essentially the same recipe – but Dark Star Hophead is an exemplary example of effective late dry hopping, with Cascades 🙂 Would like to try yours!

mmmm…dry hops…

I never did it too much in the past, but I just started kegging, which to me seems to be the perfect dry-hopportunity. Though I’m force carbing with CO2. Maybe one day I’ll keg-condition one.

interesting. I am not yet into Kegging, and bottle all my homebrew. Needless to say, this is something i’ll be looking into.
on a similar vein, I reckon a number of breweries rebrand existing ales to create ‘specials’ – usually one-offs for beer festivals.

Rich – welcome. We don’t really have a particularly scientific method for it. We add around 50-60g of sugar to a 10 litre polypin, fill it (but not all the way), leave it at room temperature for around five days. About 24 hours before serving, put it somewhere cooler (our garage last weekend was a fabulous 8-10 degrees).

It doesn’t maintain its condition long once tapped, which is the only downside. Perfect excuse to get some friends round for some feedback. And it really does taste different to the same beer bottled. As we noted the first time we tried this, it seems fresher.

Jeff – yes, they’re reusable, just need to sanitise them like you would with bottling.

OK. I ask because I just ditch the polypins my Weston’s Ciders come in at the pub. If you’d like me to save them for you (I get through a couple a week) let me know.

Hey – I’ve never tried using polypins for homebrew before, but perhaps I will now.

BTW, you can reuse 5-litre mini-casks too, as long as you can prise the bung out of the top without damaging it. The small size of the casks makes them easier to finish before the beer goes off, so you can enjoy cask beer even when you’re not throwing a party. I’ve had excellent results with these, though getting the carbonation right involved a bit of experimentation…

I’m not sure I’d class beer in polypins and minikegs as being “cask beer”. There’s no vented conditioning process, which surely effects what you serve negatively. We did a tasting for BEER magazine at the pub and sampled various ales from polypins. All tasted underconditioned – like cask ale that’s just dropped bright but hasn’t time to develop.

Jeff – a good point, but it’s still a closer approximation than BCA. For what it’s worth, to some extent you can treat a mini-cask in a similar way to a proper cask – as well as the tap, they have a valve at the top which can be left open or closed, so if you’re a keen home-cellarman you can vent it a day or so in advance of drinking, then open and close the valve as necessary during the life of the beer. Not as much control as soft and hard spiling (and I have to acknowledge my lack of practical experience here), but you get the idea.

BTW, have you read this month’s mini-cask tastings in BEER?

Jeff — used polypins would be handy — we’ll come and grab a couple at some point. Thanks.

The main advantage of polypins is that beer is drinkable pretty much three weeks after you brew it. They work best with fairly uncomplicated pale ales which don’t need much in the way of maturation. Not as good as a pint of cask ale in a decent pub, but there is a certain zing there that you rarely get from bottles.

Tom — we’ve got one of those mini-casks in. When we’ve finished the beer, we’ll have a go at reusing it. They look cool, too!

On the subject of Polypins, get some handpulls and serve through them, you will be hard pressed to tell the difference from a real cask ale. you also have the added benefit that you can lay the pin with the tap at the top, the pump will pull the very last dregs from the pin, no waste at all. Our group recently showcased our beers at a local festival, many people wanted to nominate us for “beer of the fest” Fellow blogger and group member “Grumpy John” is a recent convert to poly’s and pumps and I would say he produces beers that could grace any bar in the land. On the subject of maturation, I have had beer 5 days old from “mash” to first pint from the pin, I have also served beer that has been in the pin for 2+ months.

i’m gonna transfer to polypin for secondary fermentation, i use organic honey instead of sugar to prime bottles normally so gonna use it in the pin too.. i did read somewhere tho that its better to add the primer about 3-4 days before u gonna drink. this makes sense to me but i wondered your thoughts?

[…] You need a specific type of crap beer for this one — you don’t want too much bitterness. We’ve used Stella Artois, and you have to cook it for a long time before the bitterness and metallic taste disappears. We got much better results with Debowe Mocne (other sweet Polish tramps’ lagers like Warka Strong would probably work) and also a bottle of Kronenbourg Blanc that a well-meaning friend left round.  It also works quite well if you have any flat homebrew left in a polypin. […]

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